New grocer set to open in former post office at Oak Bay Junction

A new mid-size grocery store is opening this summer in the former post office building near the Fort Street and Oak Bay Avenue junction.

The 10,000-square-foot space will be returning to its roots when the Urban Grocer swings open the doors. Six decades ago, it was a Safeway store.

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And the owner of the Urban Grocer remembers going there often with his mother and carrying groceries home in his little red wagon.

Leigh Large, who is part of the family that founded the Country Grocer chain, said he remembers shopping at the Safeway with his family during the 1940s and is pleased to bring it full circle.

The Urban Grocer is in the process of hiring between 35 and 40 staff, including assistant department managers, produce, grocery and deli clerks, cashiers and administration staff. It hopes to open July 1.

Coolers and shelving have been installed and the building has gone through an extensive renovation. It sits between a Shopper’s Drug Mart and the Vessel Liquor Store, which is owned by the same group.

The aim is to become a hub for the area, said general manager Shawn Fahr. “There’s a real concentration of people and families and we really want to focus on being of service to them.”

The nearest grocery stores are about one kilometre away. There is a Save-on-Foods down the road at Fort and Foul Bay and a Red Barn Market on Oak Bay Avenue.

Fahr started in the grocery business at age 16 at Food King in Nanaimo and went on to work with Save-On-Foods for 12 years. He also had stints with Fairway, Western Foods and Heart Pharmacy, and worked in other industries. He has a degree in biochemistry, but loves the grocery game.

“My real passion is inspiring staff and getting to know customers,” he said. “We want this to be a place where employees know your name, you know theirs and you feel comfortable getting to know me as your neighbourhood grocer.”

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